U.S. President Obama: Crimea not ‘done deal’ as not recognized internationally

U.S. President Obama: Crimea not ‘done deal’ as not recognized internationally

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that Russia’s annexation of Crimea was not a “done deal” as it has not been recognized by the international community.

He added that Washington was concerned about the possibility of further Russian encroachment into Ukraine.

“It is up to Russia to act responsibly and show itself once again to be willing to abide by international norms and … if it fails to do so, there will be some costs,” he said at the end of a nuclear security summit in The Hague.

He said additional sanctions would hurt Russia, but also the economies of other countries.

(Reporting By Anthony Deutsch)

What happened to our 1994 nuclear disarmament agreement to help defend Ukraine?

What happened to don’t worry, “our sanctions can get ugly quickly” and can ratchet up to hurt them?

Ok, a few questions.. How is it not over? The Ukraine military was forced to lead its own bases in it own country.  They left behind equipment, naval vessels, and THEIR bases.

The Russian military is in place and has raised their flags prominently.

What will happen in a few months in Eastern Ukraine? Bulgaria? Other Non NATO provinces with a Russian majority?

When is the next Olympics?


Iraq Makes a Plea

Iraq Makes a Plea

Today an Op-Ed in the NY Time by the Prime Minister of Iraq.  This leads his upcoming visit to the White House next week.  Promising more help on AQ and Syria, the Prime Minister is looking for accelerated delivery of F-16s, increased intelligence sharing, and more weapons such at helicopters and night vision equipment.

Talk to Iran?

Trust Iran?

Where has this sudden move by IRAN to admit that nuclear weapons should not be a weapon in their military come from? Is it from the recent showdown in Syria where President Assad was trembling (tic) at the thought of military strikes in Syria…  Uh, no. I don’t believe military options are the key reason. I think two other options are influencing the Khomenei and the new President in Iran.

The first, often criticized, is the cumulative effect sanctions are having on the population in Iran. Despite Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea shrugging theirs off, sanctions are finally making an impact in Iran.

After Ahmadenijad’s reelection in 2009, many in the country thought the “election” was fraudulent and rioting ensued across the country (reminder the Supreme Leader selects the President to be voted upon in Iran-not a real free election) Iran’s oil revenue is down 58% and it has been reported that over 50% of the population is having trouble finding enough money for food. This can be directly correlated to decreased fuel subsidies by the Iranian government spiking gasoline prices and runaway inflation on basic necessities and western products.  Rouhani was elected on the promise that he would improve the economy and situation for the average Iraninan..  Now he has to deliver.

Where could he possible get the money for this? How about cutbacks or reduction in developing nuclear weapons? This is hugely expensive, especially buying equipment on the global black market, subsidizing North Korea, paying off nuclear scientists, and they burying them into mountainsides. They could save billions of dollars and turn that money back to the country or to the oil infrastructure. If Rouhani can get some sanctions reduced in a deal with the US, even more trade and infrastructure can help his cause. More money also means Iran can increase their foreign aid to their friends across the Middle East, Venezuela, and North Korea. (Perhaps future blog on that topic)

What else is enabling this sudden desire to talk to the US? I believe it’s the sudden reemergence of their long friends the Russians. With Putins team stealing the political limelight with a “save” in Syria, I think the Iranians will use the Russian link for their future negotiations with Kerry. I look to see Russian influence either on inspectors, teams, or even coordinators for verification. Perhaps UN teams allowed as well, but don’t look for any Americans anytime soon own those teams.
Russia also plays a key role in any future UNSC Resolutions or helping remove current ones. What else? I’m sure Iran would be happy to receive their often delayed S300 missile system.

Putin will be for elevating his country to a status so they matter again on the World Stage… All without military might. He is seeking equal status with the US in the Middle East and probably fits in with old realpolitik thoughts from the old days…

Do I think all these happy thoughts on Iran possible? Yes, but it’s not as we haven’t heard this tune before, both in Iran and their soul mates in North Korea. (North Korea was reportedly powering up a reactor this last week that they agreed to shut down a decade ago in return for oil shipments there). I am highly skeptical of these public promises and well have to see what Iran agrees to, and more importantly what inspectors find. In the end nothing should change for sanctions until we see some actual events on the ground in Iran.

Either way, I think we have to give these talks a shot, even if it helps Russia in the near term. Military action in Iran is the last thing we need at this point after multiple Wars the last decade and a budget crisis with a tired military.

Security Clearances… Cleared for What?

Let me first say, I am retired, have no access to any data on current events or specific recent events in DC or intelligence leaks.  With that said I can comment on generic things I have seen dealing with government clearances.

Typically, the lowest level of security clearance is good for 10 years following a rudimentary background check.  This includes a credit check and felony/arrest check. Higher level clearances have a more thorough check and are only good for 5 years.

As you’ve seen in recent articles, these clearances can be reactivated by an employer after a service member or govt worker leaves government service for the remainder of the clearance time.  After the 5/10 year time frame expires, the employer or employee would have to pay for a new background check.

While I never did background checks themselves, it appears from the media reports, and from what I saw on active duty, there are not any annual recheck to make sure a member has changed since the background check was accomplished.  I only saw members lose their clearance when they applied for an extension, and most commonly they lost it for being behind on car payments or credit cards.

Now we have our Washington Navy Yard shooter (former Navy Reservist) who never went higher than E-4.  From 2004 to 2010, which includes time before and during his 4 year tour, he was arrested 3 times in three states – 2 of which were for gun discharges, and ultimately received his SECRET clearance for 10 years in 2008.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered “top to bottom reviews” of the Security clearance System and procedures for gaining access to facilities..  I’ll save him some time and money and propose a few here for clearances:

1. SECRET Clearances good for only 5 years to match TS and higher guidelines.

2. Full background checks for all levels of security clearances (Make SECRET match TS level background checks) No way you should miss an arrest on a background check.

3. Annual computer database checks on members with clearances on Terrorist and Criminal databases.

4. Annual Credit Checks to maintain clearance.

5. Mental Heath checks for members with clearances.  Yes if you hear voices you should not have a weapon or a clearance.

5. If a member leaves the service/govt, a background check must be completed before reactivating a contractors previous clearance.

6. Increase checks on contractors performing background checks. Any violations of policy should lead to termination of their contract.  (Contractor who did Edward Snowden’s background check also failed with the Washington Navy Yard shooter background check.)

7. Review background checks completed by the contractor in number 6 above for errors or incomplete checks.  Suspend any clearances needing a complete check.

8. Review the number of clearances granted to contractors.  As the military downsizes this number seems to grow in proportion, raising our risk.

While these are only a few changes, perhaps they might have helped in the Edward Snowden case and the Washington Navy Yard.  Current clearance procedures are a failure.  With all of the instant computer data available these days, it could be relatively easy to maintain in a Security office.


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